In last week’s episode of The West Wing, the staff musical chairs continued with a vengeance. Are the writers trying to replicate the suspense of a reality show that kicks someone off every week? Because for the audience, it’s really just exhausting and hard to keep track of so many characters. And as you might expect, the chemistry of the cast is basically nonexistent at this point. Here’s what (and who) went down last week.
So Long to the Mooch
The Mooch didn’t even make it as long as Mandy, another character who was universally disliked and gone before you could say Shibboleth. Now the writers are rooting around for someone to fill the dramatic void, and seem to be hinting that the Mooch’s replacement could be senior policy advisor Stephen Miller. Miller gave a press conference in which he claimed that the pro-immigration poem on the Statue of Liberty was not original to the monument. Where did this crackpot come from? Was he a visitor who stuck around after Big Block of Cheese Day? Next thing you know, he’ll be arguing that the writing on the Lincoln Memorial was a late addition by Banksy. True nutjob characters have been relegated to the sidelines in the past, but Miller looks to play a starring role.
Jeff Sessions Versus the Press
A crackdown on the free press has been building all season, and in this episode it made its way into the open with an announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he was reviewing policies on forcing journalists to reveal their sources. Sessions’ beady-eyed threats to democracy have at times seemed comically evil this season, and for a while it looked like the writers might recognize that and eliminate his character. That’s no longer imminent, judging by this episode. Thanks in part to Sessions, tension between the White House and the press has really escalated since CJ and Danny’s forbidden love affair, which seems positively quaint in comparison. Had this crackdown happened during one of the early seasons, no doubt Danny would have gotten himself thrown in jail rather than reveal CJ as his source, and CJ would have quit her job rather than work for an administration that threatened Danny’s constitutional rights. Now that’s real love.
Grand Jury Subpoenas
Just when we thought the Donald Trump, Jr. meeting with the Russians storyline had been dropped, the writers brought it back last week. The grand jury empaneled by Robert Mueller — shaping up to be the Trump administration’s greatest adversary this season — issued subpoenas in connection with the meeting. Will Don Jr., the latest in a long line of I-won’t-grow-up spoiled-brat white boys throughout American culture, actually face consequences for his actions? It would certainly break with precedent in a season that has done just that at every turn. Had Zoey Bartlet met with a Russian operative who promised damaging information about her father’s opponent, and then neglected to tell the FBI about it, she would have gone to jail. (And President Bartlet would never have helped her lie her way out of it.) Though she was a responsible young woman, even during her rebellious phase, not a 39-year-old man-boy.
Trump Takes a Vacation
The President has left the West Wing for an extended period of time, supposedly so that repairs could be done to the White House — some major HVAC work and remedying a fly problem and a foul odor. (The condition of the White House must have deteriorated to that of Ainsley Hayes’ subterranean office.) What seems most likely is the writers don’t know what to do with Trump when he’s around, other than have him demand extra scoops of ice cream and scream incoherently at unsuspecting staffers. Though funny the first ten times, that’s gotten old, so unless Trump takes on a storyline befitting his office — and learns to walk and talk like the rest of the cast — maybe it’s better that he get out of the way while Steve Bannon runs the White House. I know this sounds crazy for a TV show centered around the President, but have the writers considered that they may be better off without him altogether?
What will happen next week? Will new chief of staff John Kelly successfully impose his famed military-style discipline? Will Mike Pence scheme behind Trump’s back, in the grand tradition of undermining vice presidents? And where the hell is Ivanka? Whatever happens, it will undoubtedly bring more stomach-dropping twists.